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The Paliyan of Kerala
The Paliyan of Kerala
Description
Introduction

The Paliyan are one of the scheduled tribes of Kerala and Tamilnadu. In Kerala they are distributed in Peermedu and Udumbanchola taluks of idikki District. According to 1971 Census there are eight hundred and ninety souls of Paliyans in Kerala.

Some information’s on the Paliyan are available in Castes and Tribes of South India by Thurston (1909). A brief account of the life of the Paliyan is given in ‘Travancore Tribes and Castes’ by L.A.K. Iyer (1939). A.D. Luiz has described the Paliyan of Kerala very briefly in his book ‘Tribes of Kerala’ (1962). Peter Gardner has studied in detail the Paliyan of Madura and Ramnad districts (1969 & 1972). No detailed study has been done on them in kerala. The present attempt, therefore has been made to prepare an ethnographic report on the Paliyan of Kerala. This will also help to bring out the comparative life of the paliyan with that of other region including the recent changes in their way of life.

Method of Study
I collected some first hand information about the Paliyan from available reports and literatures. In the field before starting actual survey I collected some basic information’s from the State Officials who have regular contact with these people. The tribal development officer gave me preliminary information’s about them. Once I accompanied him to the settlements of the Paliyan. It appeared that the Paliyan living in Kumaly settlement were more backward and development activities were mostly concentrated on them. The Tribes Development Officer also suggested to me to select Kumaly settlement for my study. I selected Kumaly settlement for my intensive field work. I also visited other settlements and collected data for comparative assessment.

The techniques employed in collecting data were interview, observations, genealogies, case histories, group discussions and interview in structured schedules. At times, whenever it was possible, I also participated in their activities.

Field Work
The field work was conducted in two phases. In each phase it was continued for a period of two months. The first phase of the field work carried out during April to June, 1978 and the second phase of the field work was done during March to May, 1979.

Field situation
In the beginning it was difficult to establish rapport with the people. As my first visit to the settlement was with the tribal development officer, the people were under the impression that I too belonged to the tribal development office and I had gone there to study about poor conditions of their life and to give them more help and benefits from the tribal development office. It was also a coincidence that on the day of my first visit some goats were distributed among them by the tribal development officer. But when I told them about my purpose of work they started showing disinterest in me. I was always asked by them whether this study would bring any immediate benfits to them. It was obvious that they expected some money for spending their time in answering my queries. Their argument was that they are living on the daily income which they earn either by selling fire wood or by working as daily labour. For that they have to leave the place early morning.

Later on my acquaintance with the womenfolk helped me to a great extent to make the people convinced with some of the Paliyan women who helped me in getting reliable informations on various aspects of their life.

It was very difficult to collect data on their income as they do not have any regular job or they do not keep regular account. Most of the Paliyan living in Kumaly settlement depend on collecting and selling firewood in Kumaly market. They were at times hesitant in telling me how much fire wood they collected and how much they earned out of it.

Paliyans of Chakkupallam were suspicious about my visit. Some of them complained that the officials were under the impression that the Paliyans living in Chakkupallam were more advance and there was no need of giving any government assistance to them. A few Paliyans own a good amount of land and cardamom plantations there. The converted Paliyan who who live in Anakkara settlement also said that they were not getting any government assistance and the Indian Missionary Society had not implemented any programmes for their economic development.

In thebeginnig I faced some difficulties in understanding the conversation of the Paliyan. The Paliyan talk a dialect of Tamil. The youngsters can talk Malayalam as well as Tamil. They helped me in understanding the conversation of the old Paliyan.

Historical account of the Paliyan
In the earlier reference (Thurston, 1909) the Paliyan were described as a nomadic and food gathering tribe. They subsisted mainly on the roots, leaves wild fruits and honey. The supplemented their food with the meat of the animals like sambar, wild boar, etc. they to trap these animals in pit falls carefully covered up with twigs and leaves. They lived in grass huts, sometimes on platforms up trees, in caves under rocks. They hardly covered their body with grass or leaves. Weddings were conducted without ceremonies. This description throws some light on the way of life of the paliyan in the past.

The picture of the present-day Paliyan is different. There have been changes in their traditional life style. Now the Paliyan have taken to various occupations. These include cultivation, labour work in cardamom plantation, collecting and selling of firewood, collecting of honey, etc. some of them are employed in government offices as forest guard, watchman, peon.

The meaning of the name, could not be collected from the paliyan living now. They do not remember about the origin of their name. but in Luiz account (1962) it is seen that the Paliyan claim that their name originated from ‘valli’, a palichi (Paliyan female) who was the wife of god Subramanyam. It is also mentioned that it may be a corrupt form of Pallien connoting a good tracker. According to Gardner (1972) Paliyan is a regional expression of Paraiyan, “the ancient’’. In different works the Paliyan are spelled differently like Paliyan, Palliyan, Palliyar. In the census report the Paliyan are enumerated as Palliyan, Palliyan and Palliya. In different places the people might have spelt it differently. They are also referred to as Paliyan or Paliyanmar by other caste people. In this report I have spelt them as Paliyan.

No authentic account of the origin of the Paliyan tribe is available. One set of scholars hold that they were the early Dravidians driven to the hills by the Aryan while another set of scholars maintain that they are the descendents of people who took shelter in these hills when the carnatic wars were raging in the southern districts.

The Paliyannn of Kerala are said to have migrated from Cudalloor in Mudura district in Tamil Nadu. According to L.A.K. Iyer formerly the Paliyans of Vadanmettu lived in Nelliyani, Puliyadi and Tamarakulam near Cudalloor in Mudura district. They migrated to the Cardamom hills in Travancore on the advice of a Pandaram Chief.

Another popular legend is that the chief of the Kallar at Madura had two wives. As a result of dissension between the two, the children of the junior wife took shelter in the hills for fear of maltreatment and their progeny came to be known as Paliyans.

The Paliyan living now in Thekkady Range and Kumaly Range also said that their ancestors had migrated from Cudalloor in Mudura district in Tamil Nadu. But they do not remember vividly the reason for migration to this place. They say that they had migrated to the Cardamom hills of Travancore during the reign of a local king. They were asked by the local king of Travancore to take refuge in these hill and they were called Paliyans.

Contents

AchnowledgementV
List of tablesIX
IntroductionXI
IThe Place and the People1
IIMaterial Culture11
IIIEconomic Activities19
IVFamily and Kinship34
VLife Cycle43
VISocial Control52
VIIReligious Beliefs and Practies57
VIIIStatus of Women among the Paliyan61
IXDevelopment Progammes and the Paliyan65
XSumming up74
References77

The Paliyan of Kerala

Item Code:
NAF030
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
1990
Language:
English
Size:
9.0 inch X 6.0 inch
Pages:
103 (11 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 230 gms
Price:
$25.00   Shipping Free
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Introduction

The Paliyan are one of the scheduled tribes of Kerala and Tamilnadu. In Kerala they are distributed in Peermedu and Udumbanchola taluks of idikki District. According to 1971 Census there are eight hundred and ninety souls of Paliyans in Kerala.

Some information’s on the Paliyan are available in Castes and Tribes of South India by Thurston (1909). A brief account of the life of the Paliyan is given in ‘Travancore Tribes and Castes’ by L.A.K. Iyer (1939). A.D. Luiz has described the Paliyan of Kerala very briefly in his book ‘Tribes of Kerala’ (1962). Peter Gardner has studied in detail the Paliyan of Madura and Ramnad districts (1969 & 1972). No detailed study has been done on them in kerala. The present attempt, therefore has been made to prepare an ethnographic report on the Paliyan of Kerala. This will also help to bring out the comparative life of the paliyan with that of other region including the recent changes in their way of life.

Method of Study
I collected some first hand information about the Paliyan from available reports and literatures. In the field before starting actual survey I collected some basic information’s from the State Officials who have regular contact with these people. The tribal development officer gave me preliminary information’s about them. Once I accompanied him to the settlements of the Paliyan. It appeared that the Paliyan living in Kumaly settlement were more backward and development activities were mostly concentrated on them. The Tribes Development Officer also suggested to me to select Kumaly settlement for my study. I selected Kumaly settlement for my intensive field work. I also visited other settlements and collected data for comparative assessment.

The techniques employed in collecting data were interview, observations, genealogies, case histories, group discussions and interview in structured schedules. At times, whenever it was possible, I also participated in their activities.

Field Work
The field work was conducted in two phases. In each phase it was continued for a period of two months. The first phase of the field work carried out during April to June, 1978 and the second phase of the field work was done during March to May, 1979.

Field situation
In the beginning it was difficult to establish rapport with the people. As my first visit to the settlement was with the tribal development officer, the people were under the impression that I too belonged to the tribal development office and I had gone there to study about poor conditions of their life and to give them more help and benefits from the tribal development office. It was also a coincidence that on the day of my first visit some goats were distributed among them by the tribal development officer. But when I told them about my purpose of work they started showing disinterest in me. I was always asked by them whether this study would bring any immediate benfits to them. It was obvious that they expected some money for spending their time in answering my queries. Their argument was that they are living on the daily income which they earn either by selling fire wood or by working as daily labour. For that they have to leave the place early morning.

Later on my acquaintance with the womenfolk helped me to a great extent to make the people convinced with some of the Paliyan women who helped me in getting reliable informations on various aspects of their life.

It was very difficult to collect data on their income as they do not have any regular job or they do not keep regular account. Most of the Paliyan living in Kumaly settlement depend on collecting and selling firewood in Kumaly market. They were at times hesitant in telling me how much fire wood they collected and how much they earned out of it.

Paliyans of Chakkupallam were suspicious about my visit. Some of them complained that the officials were under the impression that the Paliyans living in Chakkupallam were more advance and there was no need of giving any government assistance to them. A few Paliyans own a good amount of land and cardamom plantations there. The converted Paliyan who who live in Anakkara settlement also said that they were not getting any government assistance and the Indian Missionary Society had not implemented any programmes for their economic development.

In thebeginnig I faced some difficulties in understanding the conversation of the Paliyan. The Paliyan talk a dialect of Tamil. The youngsters can talk Malayalam as well as Tamil. They helped me in understanding the conversation of the old Paliyan.

Historical account of the Paliyan
In the earlier reference (Thurston, 1909) the Paliyan were described as a nomadic and food gathering tribe. They subsisted mainly on the roots, leaves wild fruits and honey. The supplemented their food with the meat of the animals like sambar, wild boar, etc. they to trap these animals in pit falls carefully covered up with twigs and leaves. They lived in grass huts, sometimes on platforms up trees, in caves under rocks. They hardly covered their body with grass or leaves. Weddings were conducted without ceremonies. This description throws some light on the way of life of the paliyan in the past.

The picture of the present-day Paliyan is different. There have been changes in their traditional life style. Now the Paliyan have taken to various occupations. These include cultivation, labour work in cardamom plantation, collecting and selling of firewood, collecting of honey, etc. some of them are employed in government offices as forest guard, watchman, peon.

The meaning of the name, could not be collected from the paliyan living now. They do not remember about the origin of their name. but in Luiz account (1962) it is seen that the Paliyan claim that their name originated from ‘valli’, a palichi (Paliyan female) who was the wife of god Subramanyam. It is also mentioned that it may be a corrupt form of Pallien connoting a good tracker. According to Gardner (1972) Paliyan is a regional expression of Paraiyan, “the ancient’’. In different works the Paliyan are spelled differently like Paliyan, Palliyan, Palliyar. In the census report the Paliyan are enumerated as Palliyan, Palliyan and Palliya. In different places the people might have spelt it differently. They are also referred to as Paliyan or Paliyanmar by other caste people. In this report I have spelt them as Paliyan.

No authentic account of the origin of the Paliyan tribe is available. One set of scholars hold that they were the early Dravidians driven to the hills by the Aryan while another set of scholars maintain that they are the descendents of people who took shelter in these hills when the carnatic wars were raging in the southern districts.

The Paliyannn of Kerala are said to have migrated from Cudalloor in Mudura district in Tamil Nadu. According to L.A.K. Iyer formerly the Paliyans of Vadanmettu lived in Nelliyani, Puliyadi and Tamarakulam near Cudalloor in Mudura district. They migrated to the Cardamom hills in Travancore on the advice of a Pandaram Chief.

Another popular legend is that the chief of the Kallar at Madura had two wives. As a result of dissension between the two, the children of the junior wife took shelter in the hills for fear of maltreatment and their progeny came to be known as Paliyans.

The Paliyan living now in Thekkady Range and Kumaly Range also said that their ancestors had migrated from Cudalloor in Mudura district in Tamil Nadu. But they do not remember vividly the reason for migration to this place. They say that they had migrated to the Cardamom hills of Travancore during the reign of a local king. They were asked by the local king of Travancore to take refuge in these hill and they were called Paliyans.

Contents

AchnowledgementV
List of tablesIX
IntroductionXI
IThe Place and the People1
IIMaterial Culture11
IIIEconomic Activities19
IVFamily and Kinship34
VLife Cycle43
VISocial Control52
VIIReligious Beliefs and Practies57
VIIIStatus of Women among the Paliyan61
IXDevelopment Progammes and the Paliyan65
XSumming up74
References77
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